The importance of our Zen meditation practice is not how long you meditate, it is not a matter of time, of how long, but that you are really meditating, really doing it that's what matters. This point is particularly important to Dogen Zenji's teachings, often the Zen school is understood as the meditation school or the dhyana meditation school, so there is this idea that the more you sit and meditate the more you develop some kind of state of mind, the more you sit the better you get but its not that kind of teaching and if you understand Dogen Zen in that way you miss the basic important point, you miss what Zen really means. You quickly conclude that Zen is simply meditation, a period of meditation and you split Zen practice, meditation practice apart from everything else.
Traditionally in Buddhist traditions there are three prongs to the teachings: the first part is the precepts, the second part is meditation, dhyana or samadhi, and the third part is wisdom. But if you understand Zen as meditation in that kind of narrow way then you end up believing that after meditation you attain wisdom or something like that! [laughing] That is not what Dogen Zenji is talking about, that is not the way that Dogen is pointing out the practice zazen, sitting meditation is those three aspects in one practice, they are not separate.
Dogen Zenji introduced this practice, this meditation practice in his work Fukanzazengi The Universal Principles of Zazen and in this he clearly points out that Zen practice includes the three aspects of precepts, meditation, and wisdom, they are not separate or linear, one does not lead to the other they are a totality. Meditation is not separate from wisdom, wisdom is not separate from the precepts, in fact you can only practice in this way if the precepts are maintained. Precepts are to keep or maintain our ordinary functions, to keep body and mind in order.
In day to day life if we violate the precepts not to tell a lie, not to kill whatever then that affects your body and mind and causes obstacles. Of course, you cannot sit in zazen with your back straight, just learning to settle within that, if you have not kept the precepts! If you have not kept the precepts then you cant sit. In zazen you may be very busy, your mind full of thoughts, thoughts coming and going but to be able to sit like that and to be able to settle in the midst of that means the precepts are being maintained or you are practicing the precepts. This meditation practice does not split, does not separate reality. To be able to sit like that you already have a kind of wisdom, a kind of insight, because you are overcoming all the difficulties that you have in your mind and without wisdom those difficulties cannot be overcome.